Have recent decisions by State CIF Appeals judges rendered
ineffective a bylaw that defines the prohibition of the recruiting of student
athletes, pre-enrollment contact and undue influence by offending schools?
Bylaw 510 is the part of the California State Federation’s
(CIF) constitution that defines recruiting of athletes at one school by another
school, which is not allowed. A recent decision by CIF involved a football
player transferring from Sheldon to Grant. He was ruled ineligible by the
Sac-Joaquin Section of the CIF in August for the entire 2023 season citing
Bylaw 510 and other infractions.
But that player, Devin Green, played in Grant High School’s
82-0 win over Kennedy Oct. 13. He scored four touchdowns on just five carries
Green, a senior, had played the past three football seasons
at Sheldon for coach Chris Nixon. That night was his debut in Pacer blue and
Earlier this year he made the decision to attend the Natomas
school for his senior season while he and his family continued to live in the
attendance area of Sheldon. If the family had moved into Grant’s attendance
area, Green would have likely been eligible on day one of the 2023 season,
according to CIF bylaws governing move of residence.
But, in August his transfer request to Grant was denied by
the Section because of evidence they had that indicated violation of its bylaws
which dictate what constitutes pre-enrollment contact and undue influence by a
school on a student/athlete attending another school.
One piece of evidence was a social media video from May 6,
2023 taken in a locker room at Grant showed two male students tried to rip a
Sheldon Huskies t-shirt in two before Green himself came to take the shirt
One of the Grant students then said in the video, “We’ve got
Devin Green.” At that time Green was still a student at Sheldon.
But, that wasn’t the first indication Green was planning on
taking his talents to Grant.
An April, 2023, post on “X” (Twitter) indicated Green was a
football player at Grant, but at that time he was still a student at Sheldon.
That is something which is prohibited by Bylaw 510.
Yet, according to the Section website, Green’s family
appealed that August decision by the Sac-Joaquin Section and a CIF State Appeals
judge overturned the transfer denial on Oct. 13. He played that night for the
Pacers, seven games into the 2023 season.
That even came after a three-person Sac-Joaquin Section appeal
panel earlier upheld Section commissioner Mike Garrison’s decision to rule
Green ineligible for the season.
Last school year El Camino basketball player Kiku Parker
requested to transfer, also to Grant. It was denied by Section commissioner
Garrison citing evidence of violation of bylaw 510 and other alleged
That, too, was overturned by a State CIF Appeals judge.
Those appeals are held in private meetings and, thus, unavailable to the press.
A request by the Citizen to the State CIF office for a copy of the appeal judge’s decision on Green along with any other paperwork submitted by the Greens and/or Grant High School for their basis for an appeal has not been answered as of press time.
Is Bylaw 510 now valid?
So now, in a legal sense, the validity of CIF bylaw 510
might be under question. Glen Guenard, an Elk Grove attorney, said that in organizations
ruled by a set of bylaws precedents generally are the rule until they are
overturned and then that becomes the precedents. Thus, enforcement of 510 in
the future will probably be harder to implement.
Without seeing the CIF Appeal judge’s ruling it’s hard to
say exactly why these two cases were overturned, Guenard added.
“Right now what it sounds like by this particular judge is that, yeah, you can appeal it and if there are certain factors we can overturn it and I suspect they found the rule wasn’t really violated because there wasn’t enough sufficient evidence,” he said. “Initially, there may have been, but the person (making the appeal) presented some evidence they weren’t recruited.”
The ire of opposing coaches
This case has raised the ire of many a football coach around
Elk Grove. Bothered by this decision is Nixon, the Sheldon football coach.
“You have a Section rule on a bylaw and they you have the
State overturn that ruling and this isn’t the first time, we’ve seen it twice,”
Nixon said. “What does that say? That the State has not trained its Section
commissioners well enough as to how to rule on this bylaw? Or is this bylaw
just ineffective? It seems to me (Bylaw 510) is very clear. But, it must not if
we have a Section ruling one way and a State overruling them.”
Pleasant Grove’s Josh Crabtree had a unique viewpoint: “Without
knowing the specifics on any of these cases, it’s hard to not to watch
everything happening in our section and wonder if the horse is finally out of
the barn. If high school athletics, as we knew it, is finally dead,” he texted
Crabtree added as an example another unique ruling of last
week by the Section. A player his team opposed earlier this season in the Christian
Brothers game, Ezekiel Castex, is now playing for Rocklin.
“Again, I don’t know any of the circumstances around any of
these moves, but it’s hard not to feel like the set of rules many of us thought
we were operating under are on a scrap heap somewhere…and we never got the memo,”
“That’s something in my 27 years in California coaching high
school football I’ve never seen that before,” Granite Bay head coach Joe
Cattolico said of the Castex transfer. His Grizzlies play Rocklin this Friday.
According to the Section website, Castex’ family made a
valid change of residence to the Rocklin area and was approved to play for the
Thunder Oct. 10.
Cattolico, who was Pleasant Grove’s first football coach and
spent a few seasons at Sheldon, says these recent decisions which seem to
overturn rules on recruiting other school’s players have made it difficult for
the Section office to manage now.
“From a Section office perspective, this sounds like the
worst possible thing they can imagine, as far as a free-for-all for kids to do
whatever they want - and it is a terrible idea,” Cattolico said. “Basically
there’s a part of me that wonders realistically we are sort of now there,
whether we want to be or not…it’s now beginning to look like college football in
a way, but realistically we really don’t want it to look like college
He was referring to the NCAA Transfer Portal which now
allows college players to make themselves available to other colleges annually.
“Deion Sanders basically rebuilt (University of) Colorado
through the portal,” Cattolico cited.
Cattolico believes Bylaw 510 needs to remain in place and
enforced despite these recent decisions.
“Schools shouldn’t be out there asking to come play for us,” he said.
Two games to go in 2023 season
Grant plays at Monterey Trail Friday and next week plays
Laguna Creek in games that will determine this season’s Metro Conference
championship. No one at those Elk Grove Unified schools wanted to comment at
this time on the Green ruling and its possible effects for future rulings.
Nixon says, in reflecting on the situation, his issue is
with Grant football not necessarily Green departing Sheldon.
“It’s about looking at myself and saying, ‘If I had another
player in my locker room from another school who was not enrolled at Sheldon
High School, I don’t know how much longer I would be allowed to coach’,” Nixon
said. “I would have guessed there would have been some sort of sanction against
a school for the evidence presented to them, but I guess obviously not. That
part of it is mind-boggling.”